Learning to lead means learning to ask
Learning how to lead — and particularly how to ask questions — was the main thrust of a Kansas Farm Bureau leadership program Merlyn Entz of rural Peabody graduated from last month.
Entz and another person from McPherson were the only two from central Kansas. Others included agronomists, bankers, a stay-at-home mom, a cooperative manager, and organic and conventional farmers.
“What made it fun for me was that we all were idea people,” he said. “If you enjoy that, it’s a fun class.”
He was pushed to ask questions and taught how to ask them. He also learned how to handle “messy” issues.
“Culture wars don’t interest me at all,” he said. “I’m nonpartisan. I only care about ideas.”
In addition to several classroom sessions, the class met every other month for two days with community leaders in business, agriculture, and government, about 50 meetings in all.
Class members went to western Kansas, Topeka, and Washington, D.C. Entz said he appreciated the time and effort leaders spent to get ready for the group.
“The best part was after listening to a speaker,” Entz said. “We would go to a good restaurant and sit around and talk about various aspects of leadership.”
He enjoyed meeting with other farmers in the group and learning about how they were involved in their counties and communities.
Entz served on Marion County Economic Development Council until it disbanded. He said his involvement made him aware of local challenges.
The group discovered that it had common challenges but that individuals also had unique challenges.
In Topeka, Entz attended a committee hearing on juvenile justice reform. Afterward, he visited with his representative and told of his opposition to the death penalty for juveniles.
“We had a disagreement, but we had a good discussion,” he said.
Entz learned a lot about politicians.
“Our representatives are so different in person than they are in front of the camera,” he said. “They act so different. They are more human.”
Farm Bureau lobbyists and a KFB vice president accompanied the group to D.C.
Things were a lot tighter in D.C. than in Kansas, Entz said. Everywhere he went, he had to show his ID and sometimes his vaccination card. He met with House agriculture committee staff members.
Five members met with Senator Robert Marshall.
“They were less than impressed,” he said. “He didn’t seem interested in ag policy.”
Kansas Farm Bureau sees development of leaders as an important part of its mission, especially because rural counties are dropping in population, Entz said.
The Kansas delegation was surprised to see how many Kansans are in Washington.
“We are over-sized in representation compared to other states,” he said.
Credit for that was given to the late Kansas State University ag professor Barry Flinchbaugh and retired Senator Pat Roberts. Flinchbaugh encouraged his students to get involved as interns in Washington. Some became trade representatives or lobbyists.
“I came away recognizing that Flinchbaugh and Roberts did so much in D.C.,” Entz said.
After their graduation, the group led a class on how to lead and discuss difficult subjects.
Entz said the whole experience was definitely worth his time.
“We were pushed to understand the difference between knowing about problems and solving problems,” he said.